The Core Four: Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. These four have been a huge part of the Cleveland Cavaliers turnaround this season. 51 wins. Ending a five-year playoff drought. Clinching homecourt in the first round. However, none of that matters now.
It’s the postseason, and while what they have accomplished in 82 games is cute, that is all out the window now. It is time for that to translate to the playoffs. The Core Four did not live up to that in Game 1.
While Mitchell did everything he could to lead the Cavs to an improbable victory despite their poor play, it was not enough. Garland did not give him enough help in the fourth quarter, Mobley couldn’t make a shot at the rim, and missed a key box out on Julius Randle late that sealed the Cavs’ fate. As for Allen, he had a solid game, but it was not enough in the end.
All in all, the engines that have made the Cavaliers go can all be better. Here is my analysis of their individual Game 1 performances.
Darius Garland’s Game 1
Garland had a very up and down Game 1. He started out by getting trapped and then throwing the ball away early in the first quarter, but he was able to settle in during the second and third quarters.
By making Mitchell the primary ball handler, and moving Garland off the ball more, the Cavs were able to have a little more offensive success in the second half. He had 17 entering the fourth quarter and he was efficient as well, as he made 7-of-13 shots. However, Garland took the same amount of shots as I did in the fourth quarter against the Knicks: ZERO.
I said it before and I will say it again: the Cavaliers success hinges on Darius Garland’s aggressiveness. It is not like he was inefficient with his shots. Obviously he needs to shoot the three better, as he was only 1-of-5, but 7-of-13 is a good shooting game. He needs to take more shots and pick his spots more. Donovan Mitchell cannot be superman for 40-plus minutes every game. Garland is going to have to score at least 20 a game for the rest of the series if the Cavs want to win this.
He has been the Robin to Mitchell’s Batman all season. Now he has to do it on the biggest stage.